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Counter No 9


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Its 9:29, thing’s are looking gloomy and bleak. I have moved half a meter in 23 minutes. The door looms before me. Two places in front of me a young girl of about 14 or 15 maybe younger is holding a baby. The baby stirs and starts to moan, the young girl pulls out her breast and silences the child. A young women exits through the door in front, sporting the spoils of colonialism, Nike takkies, Levi Jeans and a Lee denim jacket. Her right index finger is buried up to the first joint in her nose and she has a Nokia to her left ear.

My eyes start to water and I swallow choking back the vomit. Someone has let a ripper loose. Its stench fills the air gagging all around. It was silent and deadly, I look ahead to see if I can spot someone looking guilty. I can’t, but fortunately we are not in the door yet, there is a slow movement of the air and the smell dissipates. My mouth is dry. We shuffle closer to the door I can touch it now. And can see well into the hall. It is just as bleak. Clutching my file I squat down to rest my back then remembering the ripper incident and realizing that by squatting I am putting myself at ground zero, I quickly stand back up.

A tap on my shoulder startles me and someone asks me a question I answer yes, it is a young Indian man and his face drops as he looks back at the queue trailing out the door behind me and disappearing around the corner. Newbie I think to myself. I look at my watch and realize I have lost ten minutes of my life and I am now a meter inside the door. I try to recall those ten minutes but they are blank. Things are looking up, a meter in ten minutes. I was wrong the line does not move for another twenty.

I spend these twenty minutes looking around the hall I find myself in. The floor is filthy, is does not look like it was swept or even cleaned in … well never. The walls are just as grimy. Ripped posters and notices of varying sizes are pasted randomly at different levels on the walls. One stands out, it is new and clean and I can’t read it from where I stand. The wall at far end of the hall opposite me is lined with counters, numbered backwards from left to right 8 to 1. Five of the eight counters are closed. Above the counters are four large gold framed photos. The first is of our beloved president. The other three I don’t recognize, other than the self satisfying grins they have on their faces. I have seen that kind smile before. Next to these portraits is a big sign with a mission statement. It reads “Vision: Rendering a world Class Serviceâ€. On what world, freaking Mars, I think to myself. It ends with a mission line reading some garbage about Promoting and Protecting National Integrity.

I am in the line for counter no 9, it is on my side of the hall. My line is headed for a line of benches and easy chairs in front of counter no 9. It is now 10:22 I eventually reach, the benches. They are a contrast to the rest of the hall in that the seats are shiny. It’s bum shuffle time. You take your place at the end of the first bench and then when the line moves you slide down the bench one place at a time. Thus the shiny benches. I am in the middle of the bench and we bump, bump slide. A fatty joins the end and shuffles herself into a comfortable spot, squashing the rest of us up like the first row of sardines in the can. Bump, bump slide the seconds tick into minutes which seem like hours until I eventually get to the front.

Two Hours Twenty Eight Minutes after joining the line I emerge into the sunshine outside empty handed. Yep you guessed it I have been at Home Affairs. It was a good day. They were quick today.

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Brilliant, excellent writing!!! I really enjoyed this one!

Isn't there some sort of prize for this? A Pullitzer or something?

Colourful and entertaining. :o

Eish - I am so glad I am leaving South Africa in 11 days' time.... ;)

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I agree, brilliant. "Dis nou maar wors" om Trompie se woorde te leen. Die skryf talent oppie forum word by die dag meer. Ok hoekom ek maar deesdae my bek hou en sit.

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Mooi geskryf!!

Ek het eintlik verwag dat jy uiteindelik sou uitvind dat jy in die verkeerde ry gestaan het! :blush::ilikeit:

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Hi The Cramers,

A masterful piece indeed! The bit about "ground zero" was quite entertaining, especially seeing that we are in that part of the world.

You might have thought of this before, but we avoided the long queues at home affairs by trying to be close to first in line. That means being at the door half an hour or so before opening time. It may not be practical for you (eg other tasks to take care of early in the morning) or even safe, however it did keep our waiting time to a minimum.

All the best,


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There's light at the end of the tunnel... once you're here in Aus, you will have the opportunity to deal with government staff like Immigration, Medicare, and Driving License departments as well, and the experience is totally the opposite. Excellent systems to handle large numbers of people, offices generally neat & clean with enough seating (if you're unlucky enough to have to wait at all), people helping you generally know what they're doing... What a pleasure!

A few weeks ago, we had to get our NSW drivers licenses sorted, and thinking of the drivers license chaos in SA, I was really not looking forward to the process. Surprise, surprise, it was painless! I walked in, was helped within 10 minutes, wrote a very reasonable theory test immediately, and made a booking for the road test the following day. Again, same painless exercise, the official took me out on the road, explained in good English what it was about and what was expected of me, and afterwards did the card processing himself quickly and efficiently...

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Well said, glad you made it to the front without any hassles.

Luckily for us that part of the ordeal was done many moons ago I cant even remember how that went.

Good luck for the rest of the yourney


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